Empowering women in the quest for universal energy access

Rural electrification in Indonesia is implemented through various initiatives either by the government or non-government organizations. GIZ Indonesia, through the EnDev Indonesia project, supports the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources that has the mandate to provide access to electricity for everyone. The project focuses on renewable energy applications in rural areas as means to promote climate-sensitive universal access to energy. The support is currently concentrated on micro hydro power and photovoltaic mini-grids, hence contributing towards greenhouse gas mitigation efforts in Indonesia within a rural context. The renewable energy technologies deployed are specifically geared towards replacing any current use of fossil fuels and/or minimizing any future installation of fossil fuel-based technologies specifically for electricity.

The typical villages supported by EnDev Indonesia receive electricity from a micro hydro power or photovoltaic generation plant with capacity ranging from 5 kW up to 400 kW. These rural power plants are generally operated and managed by a small group of villagers known as village management team, or in advance cases by a cooperative. Electricity is then provided for households, social or public facilities such as schools, clinics and communal or religious buildings, as well as small businesses like kiosk and carpentry workshops.

The project has carried out a whole series of tangible activities to achieve sustainable electricity access. Spreading from the technical quality assurance of the installed rural power plants to the capacity development measures. These measures largely target beneficiaries on micro-level such as communities and cooperatives, as well as on a meso-level such as rural facilitators, technicians, and local government.

Promoting gender equality throughout implementation

EnDev Indonesia attempts to involve women as much as possible. This applies in particular to the village management teams who operate the plants, perform simple maintenance, as well as to collect and manage the electricity fees. Women commonly are well accepted to play a role related to secretariat and accounting tasks. In a few cases, women are appointed to be the manager or chief as well. Women are perceived as a trustworthy and reliable fellow.

In broader context, rural electrification is expected to be a vehicle for local economic development. The electricity should serve beyond lighting and entertainment purposes; therefore, productive use of electricity becomes an ambition. The project recognises high potential for women to tap this opportunity. Women are encouraged to utilise the electricity for productive activities, for instance running a kiosk, selling cold drinks, and making clothes using sewing machines. As part of the training on business skills, initiated by the project, female participation is obligatory. These female participants are entrepreneurs and cooperatives’ administrators.

 Gender-sensitive monitoring system post implementation

An extensive monitoring system has also been established, stretching from technical and economic performance to social elements. Gender aspects are  part of this monitoring system. A baseline survey is carried out on the initial support activity to each supported village and a Key Performance Indicator survey is conducted biannually. The questionnaire used for such survey includes queries on gender composition of the village management team as well as the business owners.

From the last assessment on gender composition related to village management teams, it appears that women play roles in all positions in the team with the highest percentage as accountant (24%). Meanwhile, during the two rounds of training on business skill development with  at least 300 participants in 19 villages, 23% were female participants.

The primary challenge ahead is to anchor all learnings throughout the years to be embedded in all rural off-grid electrification endeavour in the country.

 Project Impacts and contribution to sustainability

The project aims to provide sustainable access of modern energy to households, public facilities, and rural businesses. This corresponds to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. This objective is significantly in line with the Indonesian government target to increase the electrification ratio using renewable energy sources.

Electricity has changed the lives of many. The most evident change resulted from the harnessing of electricity is the availability of light at night. This allows the community to do activities more comfortably. Other significant changes include advances in technology use (such as television and refrigerators), health care, education, transportation, as well as dissemination of information through cell phone and the internet.

Another goal relevant to the project relates to SDG 5: “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.” In particular, the project ensures women’s effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership within the village organisation which manages the power plant. The project actively encourages women to play a role in the management of the electricity facilities which include leadership and decision-making responsibilities. Often, women involvement strengthens the organisation’s reliability and credibility in conducting its tasks.

The project also eagerly supports activities that increase women’s creativity in productive and/or income generating efforts to improve quality of life. Such activity includes training on business skill development in which female entrepreneurs have the same opportunity to participate. In some instances, several female entrepreneurs performed really well in the training and were appointed to be the peer group leader for exchanges among entrepreneurs in the village.

In the upcoming work, the project will address gender equality issues in an inclusive manner. The gender assessment and monitoring carried out in the previous years will serve as a reference for gender mainstreaming within rural electrification context. The Ministry has committed to work hand-in-hand and to adopt the learnings into their programmes. Main focus would be on inclusion of gender-related parameter during programme planning and awareness raising on women’s prominent role in electricity utilisation.